2022 Georgia Legislative Session, Day 12

Betty Q. Hixson

The floors of the House and Senate were busy today as legislators quickly got back to work after the three-day weekend. The Senate took up several weighty measures, including SB 338, which would expand Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers from six months postpartum to one year postpartum. Senators also signed off on SB 342, requiring annual reporting on mental health parity in health insurance plans, and SB 257, cleaning up several provisions relating to criminal record expungement. In the House, members approved several banking related measures and bills incorporating two cities–Lost Mountain (HB 826) and Vinings (HB 840). Full coverage of the day’s floor action, committee meetings, and new legislation in this #GoldDomeReport.

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next


Floor Action

The House considered the following measures on Monday

  • HB 780 – Retirement and pensions; membership of full-time judges of the state-wide business court in the retirement plan established for appellate court judges; provide – PASSED (152-0)

  • HB 826 – Lost Mountain, City of; incorporate – PASSED (98-54)

  • HB 840 – Vinings, City of; incorporate – PASSED (99-56)

  • HB 891 – Banking and finance; financial institutions; provide for numerous updates – PASSED (151-0)

  • HB 899 – Contracts; legal effects of the discontinuance of LIBOR; provisions – PASSED (154-0)

  • HB 961 – Torts; authorize apportionment of damages in single-defendant lawsuits; provide for evidence of fault of nonparties – POSTPONED

The Senate considered the following measures on Monday:

  • SB 257 – Georgia Crime Information Center; criminal history record restrictions for certain persons cited with or convicted of certain criminal offenses; provide – PASSED (48-3)

  • SB 326 – State Flag, Seal, Symbols; placement of a monument in honor of the Honorable Clarence Thomas within the capitol building or grounds; provide – PASSED (32-22)

  • SB 338 – Medicaid; postpartum coverage under Medicaid from six months to one year following birth; increase – PASSED (54-0)

  • SB 342 – Insurance; annual reporting regarding mental health parity in healthcare plans; provide – PASSED (48-3)

  • SB 363 – “Fair Business Practices Act of 1975,”; class action suits and for damages for violating the requirements for solicitations for corporate filings; provide – PASSED (51-0)

Committee Reports

Senate Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) met to consider the following propositions on Monday:

  • SB 316, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), amends Titles 16 and 20 to provide that a person 18 years old or older who commits the offense of stalking against a minor shall be guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor. The bill also requires local boards of education to provide notice to students and parents of students that some acts of bullying and cyberbullying can constitute criminal violations.

Senator Anavitarte presented the bill to the Committee as a substitute (LC 49 0783S), which was proposed by a student in his district. The student who proposed the legislation to Senator Anavitarte also appeared and spoke in support of the bill. Chairman Strickland later explained that the substitute tweaks language from the original version that would have made the offense a felony; the substitute adjusts the language to maintain the offense’s misdemeanor status. Mazie Lynn Guertin of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers expressed appreciation for addressing this issue but expressed other concerns with the legislation, including the fact that the bill is specifically directed at individuals 18 years old or over, not juvenile-toward-juvenile bullying behavior.

Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) expressed concern about the bill, explaining that he spent four years on the Criminal Justice Reform Council reassessing the appropriate penalties for criminal offenses and expressing frustration that the legislature has spent the last four years undoing that work and increasing penalties again piecemeal. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute with a 7-1 vote.

  • SB 359, authored by Senator John Albers (R-Roswell), is the “Safe and Secure Georgia Act.” The bill amends multiple titles to address a number of criminal law issues. The bill first requires that accountability courts submit to legislative oversight. It provides an enhanced penalty for possession of a firearm by certain convicted felons and probationers and mandatory minimum sentences for recidivists convicted of abuse of a disabled or elder person. The bill also targets gang offenders by estopping them from disputing proven facts from a guilty or nolo plea in a subsequent civil action and providing multi-county jurisdiction for prosecution. The legislation amends the Code relating to criminal court procedure, and it also provides the GBI with jurisdiction over state offenses concerning child abuse and kidnapping, abuse of elder persons and disabled adults, criminal gang activity, organized crime activity, elections, and domestic, cyber, biological, chemical, and nuclear terrorism.

Senator Albers presented the bill, which he called an “omnibus crime bill”, to the Committee. Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta) asked about what concerns are had with accountability courts, and Senator Albers suggested that some judges are acting as “social workers” or “legislators” rather than jurists. Thomas Weaver appeared and expressed concern with Section 3. Mazie Lynn Guertin of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers identified a variety of concerns with the legislation. The Committee took no action on the bill and will hear additional testimony on Tuesday.

Senate Education and Youth

The Senate Education & Youth Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), held a hearing only on the following measures:

  • SB 377, authored by Senator Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia), amends Titles 20 and 50 to require state agencies, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia, units of the University System of Georgia, units of the Technical College System of Georgia, local boards of education, and local school systems to take measures to prevent the use of curricula or training programs which act upon, promote, or encourage certain concepts.

Senator Hatchett presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that it is aimed at prohibiting the teaching of “divisive concepts”, not the teaching of history. He then read the specific concepts in lines 27-43 of the legislation. Senator Hatchett then pointed to line 70 as what the bill “does not do”, explaining it does not prohibit “the use of  curriculum  that  addresses  topics  of  slavery,  racial  or  ethnic oppression,  racial  or  ethnic  segregation,  or  racial  or  ethnic  discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in such oppression, segregation, and discrimination.”

Considerable debate was held on what would improve this legislation. Concerns on the definitions of the divisive subjects, how teachers respond to questions raised by students on these subjects, and how classrooms would be monitored were expressed. Senator Hatchett and Chairman Payne agreed that this legislation needed some work, and it will remain in committee for the time being.

  • SB 15, by Senator Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia), was heard. This measure amends Code Section 20-2-142.1. Senator Anderson’s legislation would create a new category of coursework for the history of Black people and their contributions to the nation and specifically to the state. Comments and questions on this bill were quick as the committee ran over time from the debate on the previous measure. No committee action was taken.

House Governmental Affairs Committee – General Government Subcommittee

The General Government Subcommittee of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Representative Steven Sainz (R-St. Marys), held a hearing only on the following measures on Monday:

  • HB 78, by Representative Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta), would create the Division of Supplier Diversity. This new office amends Chapter 5 of Title 50 and updates Georgia Code not only to create an office focused on increasing minority owned businesses but also to report on how government contracts are awarded and who they are awarded to. This disparity study would be updated every two years after implementation.

  • HB 148, authored by Representative Kim Scofield (D-Atlanta), amends Chapter 62 of Title 36 to make changes to development authorities to specifically address an issue in her district.

  • HB 1182, by Representative Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), focuses on a local issue in Representative Taylor’s district. Her local county attorney requested clarification in the law regarding a local piece of property.

  • HR 630, also by Representative Darlene Taylor, outlines a study committee to review county governments and their school systems. Representative Taylor mentioned that the primary goal of this study is to identify ways to help counties that have smaller populations.

New Legislation

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the House:

 

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the Senate:

S.B.456

Health; requirements relating to the use of abortion-inducing drugs; provide

GA Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-GA-014)

https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61731

S.B.460

Education; noncitizen students who have received a grant of deferred action for childhood arrivals; qualify for in-state classification; may be extended same consideration as citizens of the United States

GA Sen. Nan Orrock (D-GA-036)

https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61747

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 13 on Tuesday, February 8, at 10AM.

The House is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 13:

  • HB 56 – Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit; superior court; provide additional judge

  • HB 263 – Retirement; benefits for judges of probate courts; revise method through which certain actuarial equivalents are determined

  • HB 1045 – Workers compensation; dissolution of Subsequent Injury Trust Fund; extend time period

The Senate is expected to consider the following proposition on Legislative Day 13:


Copyright ©2022 Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 39

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/gold-dome-report-legislative-day-12

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